People are strange, no matter how self-aware we like to think we are there are strange instinctive ways we act that our brains will totally justify, though of course to others we may as well be conducting an orchestra of beavers our logic is so askew. Take Harold, a death obsessed teenager, he spends his time constructing suicide attempts and attending random funerals. He does this not for his mothers benefit but instead for some other distorted purpose never made entirely clear. Though we can confidently feel this stems from the extremely stifled upbringing he has very likely endured at the hands of his mother, the story puts its focus on a young man giving Wednesday and Pugsley Addams a run for their money in the unhealthy obsession stakes. Then of course there is Maude, approaching her 80th birthday she is brimming with life, acting with scant regard for the formalities of how people live their lives, let alone the law, she would be organising the protests at Shannon, Tara and Guantanemo in a contemporary story. A fleeting shot towards the end of the story gives a glimpse into the reason for her view on life but as with Harold, explanations are not important. We meet both as they are and the journey of the film is how their relationship grows and the importance they take on in each others lives.
Harold and Maude obviously enough drive the story, the strange company we are keeping puts you simultaneously at ease and on edge. The story is laced with humour – of the blackest assortment – Harold’s mother attempting to find a suitable suitor for her son, Maude evading the law and the reaction of a number of people to a decision Harold makes late in the film. The humour cannot help but endear us to the duo and humour done so well can only make any film all the richer. With black humour though comes a warning label, its very purpose is to offer relief or a knowing acerbic commentary on a real situation – we must still return to the eventual impact the behaviour illicted by these people will have on their lives. The cult following or cult status label put on movies like ‘Harold and Maude’ comes from the strange connections a select few find in the darker moments and the potent drops of humour throughout – the quirky, eccentric characters, the kitsch charm of the setting and ultimate ‘not knowing what to make of it all-ness’ (clearly for want of a better word) create a worthy viewing experience.
Part of any well-balanced movie experience is of course the soundtrack and Cat Stevens ably provides the complete soundtrack here, it was an unexpected treat. Ricky Gervais owes him.